Transcript for Pope Benedict XVI's Resignation: ABC News Now Special Report
This is a special ABC news live stream on Dan Cutler in New York the world stunned today. As Pope Benedict the sixteenth surprises and making a surprise announcement that he is resigning by the end of the month. The Pope making that bombshell announcement today in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals citing his age 85. And declining -- as reasons the news coming as a surprise even for those that were closest to him. The pope's statement quote after having repeatedly examined my conscience before god I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to advanced age. Are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of that the trying ministry. He told the cardinals I am well aware that this ministry due to its essential spiritual nature must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer. And suffering. Pope Benedict will be the first Pope to resign in nearly 600 years the last hope to resign was Pope Gregory the twelfth. That was back in 1415. A big announcement this morning and ABC's Dan Harris has been closely following this pope's legacy as he took on his head of the church. -- how big of a surprise was this announcement. I think it's fair to say it's a stunner there there are people within the church -- the highest level of the church that didn't see this coming in there were people in that room. Cardinals who don't actually speak Latin. Who didn't know what had happened until there brother cardinals told them. Cities resigning so a lot of people didn't see this thing happen now obviously his predecessor Pope John Paul the second -- -- he. He had spent. In failing health in his declining years any kind of an influence in making this decision it's -- you know he's Pope John Paul the second suffer. Greatly in his physical health and and the final days and years of his -- -- And we've now learned subsequent. To his death that there were two at least two occasions on which that will considered. Resigning and in a while today was surprised there were times during which during last couple of years where Pope Benedict. Dropped pretty strong hints that he at least held out the option of retiring if he felt that he was not physically and mentally -- the task big questions now. What is really going on -- is -- positioning specific driving this. Why now. Will they be able to get a new Pope by. Easter which is of course extremely busy time of year 44 this church and then I think -- really fascinating questions about. What will Pope Benedict the sixteenth do now this is a this this is situation for which there's very little little precedent. What do you call right what's his what's -- title where does he live. How does he spend his days we know that he's going to a movie into a former monastery within the Vatican and spend his time in the life of prayer and reading. But it does he have any influence over the church -- it what does he Wear what's -- title all these questions. As far as we know yet he worked as yet to be worked out at the same time though he has been the head of the church -- 2005 what do you suppose are going to be. The leading hallmarks of his -- Like it or not I think one of the hallmarks will definitely be the priest sex abuse scandal as you know. Questions were raised during his paper C a fresh questions were raised about how he handled the scandal. In his previous posts for example -- was archbishop in Germany. And he also served as a top Vatican official under Pope John Paul and there are questions about how he handled the scandal during that time. He came to America in 2008 in April 2008 -- cover that trip he met wind. Sex abuse survivors people who the victims of of abuse and -- that was the first time a Pope did that. There's no question this will be part of his legacy there are also lots of little scandals that popped up during -- policy controversies that. Popped up during his papers see his Butler everybody remembers that -- comments about whether it was okay for Africans to use condoms during the aids crisis he's -- his pardoning. The very controversial Catholic figure who make comments downplaying that had the reality of the -- -- Time NL also his comments about Islam that provoked riots time and again this is a -- who created country. First round and insulin and obviously this is Venice -- that you have been following very closely and you -- -- over to the Vatican as well of course. Anyone can follow you on -- him to as the store will continue to denials of the -- for weeks all right Dan Harris thank you so much alike are now down to Catholic university in Washington DC is the reverend mark tomorrow's elevation -- theology and religious studies reverend. Thank you for being with us how do you expect this resignation. We'll have any kind of a change in the direction of the Catholic Church. Well I think it say it. I think it's a market presence and -- market reality of how. The churches not about one person. This helps to whole generations of people in to contact with the basic Tenet. That the poll it is the bishop -- wrong. And that's Archie is the successor to Peter. And we often you know sentence him as they sometimes. More than a human. But it helps us to focus that you know they each person brings their own gifts their own talents. And -- Last and they are crushed by the strengths and weaknesses. And it helps us to see that indeed. The church continues through its ministry different people. Well and speaking on that as far as individualistic. Characteristics. Each hope what kind of an opportunity then does this present -- for the future of the church. I think it presents the opportunity because now. We can look and see -- well it doesn't have to be someone who's going to die in five years that we've all along legacy. Pope Benedict has given a great. Two of the church and that he set the stage. For how a person can step back. -- can retire. Having reached a certain age when he realizes that he -- and how the dynamism the strength. And I think that Pope Benedict example in his retirement will be -- great witness. Of prayer. And I think that he'll probably continue to write. So you think that that statement and of itself will not be a changing. A dynamic for the. -- Arabs -- his own personal witness you know this is another poll that was. Playing the world stage this is a pull -- right. This is a poll that was -- T and he's. Had a technical homilies that he would give every Wednesday. In trying to help the church to come to a -- -- A deeper understanding. I think it's significant as well that is resigning jointly you -- faith. You -- -- that he call for us reflect upon. Our belief in god. And especially doing this fiftieth anniversary. Of the second Vatican council. Right in interesting insight and of course as we are all still. Digesting that the news this morning that caught so many of us by surprise reverend mark Mars -- dean of the school of theology at Catholic university. In Washington reverend thank you so much for your insights today. Well with the resignation. Taking effect at the end of the month the election process that will begin in March and ABC's bill Blakemore joins -- talk about what is next in the process of the conclave which is. Shrouded in secrecy -- is Ben. So closely studied and scrutinized and yet there seems to be so much that we don't know about it. Well conclave means -- club in Latin with keys that goes back to 1268. To 1271 the longest. Election process when that the townspeople and the terrible and disgusted with the infighting that meant that the cardinals couldn't -- Pulp and so they locked the cardinals and the terrible into the building there and took the roof off give them bread water and to do not coming out to elect a Pope. Ultimately they decided that them having the secrecy being cut off from the rest the world was good -- allow them a freer discourse. And that's -- when the conclave begins with some ceremony. Typically in modern times com claims have taken in the Sistine Chapel under Michelangelo's beautiful. Paintings -- typically taken to three for five days. Not likely necessarily that it would go much longer than that but they can stay longer if they want they have about seven the other people -- there was with -- a special place to stay inside Vatican City. And and -- cook and and and and Sobel that we'll see what emerges we'll hear over the next two or three weeks. What the new parties -- -- -- -- will be the point -- -- joins most of it -- for what's the next thing the world must deal with. And we're having a couple of weeks now before the resignation -- to take effect -- -- do you think that at this point discussions have orchestrated to take place even before the conclave has started. No question the moment it was announced and those -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- were on the -- -- each -- all over the world. What do we need next they're hoping of course. That Benedict will be taking with him some of the depressing spirit for their institution of the way -- handled the sex abuse scandal because that's continued to dog. What they're looking for whatever they go for somebody who I think we'll all generally agree. Somebody was gonna give a new spirit of a new beginning even the timing of this. Just before Easter which is of course a holiday celebration and renewal in springtime indicates that they're looking for a sense of revival. The probably. Think the guessing is going to be. Going to be going for somebody relatively young who can give a new sense of beginning whether or somebody from Africa Latin America. Whether gonna choose -- European that they help me help revive the European church which has been dying Asia. The one generalities will probably continue to here is. Probably not an American in in ancient the history whenever the Vatican has had a Pope comes from the superpower of the time it hasn't worked out well. They want to differentiate themselves from temporal powers -- probably not in America. And so we shall wait to see in the next couple of weeks says all attention we will be put on the Vatican has everyone will go in -- and the issues coming up. We know whatever else are dealing with they're dealing with the world it has -- global communication. That is a big social change in the way the world organizes self. And here's an interesting fact -- come out they know that the world is facing severe ecological burden not only from climate but from habitat destruction. John Paul the second and Benedict have been working behind the scenes for decades on preparing the theology of how to relate to nature. And it's fascinating and you're speaking on the world of communication I wanna get -- that bill Blakemore thank you so much of course obviously extent recoveries extensive coverage. For many years now in the insights truly. -- valuable but as you had mentioned bill obvious the world the communication expanding and as the news broke early this morning a lot of traffic on Twitter about the Catholic Church the resignation and -- -- Yahoo! News senior -- watching when everyone was saying online TV what. Is happening on Twitter. Well it was interesting again this morning in the United States -- just look at those trends pop was trending -- -- Pope on Twitter in the United States. But if you broaden the search to look worldwide. Worldwide we saw anywhere between five to six cash tax related to -- -- resignation trending across the world many of them not in English. In what about a Yahoo!'s search is it along the same lines the same keywords. You -- first look at them turning to dig in and find out more you know you talked earlier about Gregory being the last -- resign until a lot of searches around. Who -- the last Pope to resign kind of Pope resign. How did he resign. People trying to understand the process of us. In the process and then oh we we as journalists as well trying to figure out exactly how the next election process will take place given the impressive in nature of -- resignation. What about where this was the first hope that had embraced really social technologist social media technology. -- has first Twitter account what was his last week. -- he's he came to Twitter account in December 2012. And pontiff back at -- accepted -- English and he also opened up accounts in seven other languages -- could following in whatever language. On Sunday he tweeted out about on God's mercy. But this morning he has not treated to share any news of his resignation or his decision. It has gone silent but of course I know that you'll be keeping an -- on that to see if there will be some kind of reflective comment from that -- -- from Yahoo! thank you so much Phoebe. Thank you of course this has been an ABC news now special report on down -- in New York stay with abcnews.com. For special continuing coverage of the pope's resignation.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.